World Rally Championship: Hopes raised of Northern Ireland return as British series skips 2022 date

The British Rally Championship will bypass Northern Ireland in 2022 with no rounds scheduled for the first time in many years.

he seven-round series will visit England, Scotland and Wales but will not cross the Irish Sea, which may be an indication that the decks are being cleared to make way for the return of the World Championship.

The traditional Ulster Rally date in mid-August is listed in the 2022 WRC calendar as TBC (to be confirmed) and is thought to have been reserved for Rally Northern Ireland if it finally gets the go-ahead.

This new event has been proposed as the United Kingdom’s round of the Championship, replacing Rally GB Wales, but despite months of negotiations has still not been signed off by the Northern Ireland Executive and Tourism NI.

The organising team are still awaiting confirmation of the funding required to run the event between August 19-21 next year, with Tourism NI stating: “Any decision will have to take account of the many competing priorities for Executive funding.”

But the absence of British Championship rounds here next year suggests there is optimism the world’s top drivers, including new Ford recruit Craig Breen, will be heading for Belfast in 10 months’ time. The WRC promoters have been patient but will need a decision within the next few weeks.

Two rounds of the WRC were staged in Ireland on both sides of the border in 2007 and 2009, both won by France’s Sebastien Loeb, but the planned 2022 version would remain in Ulster and be run by Motorsport UK.

This year’s British series concludes with the rescheduled Modern Tyres Ulster Rally based in Newry on November 19-20.

It is currently being led by Osian Pryce with fellow Welshman Matt Edwards, the reigning champion, in second place. Edwards won the last Ulster Rally to be held in 2019.

No Irish drivers are in contention for the overall title but Eamonn Kelly, William Creighton and Kyle White hold three of the top four places in the race for the Junior Championship.

The penultimate round is the Cambrian Rally in Wales at the end of the month.

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